Luke Skywalker/Steve Austin-like bionic hands might seem like something straight out of... well, science fiction, but they’re most definitely not. There are now actually several companies competing to sell hands that can perform complex, independent-fingered tasks, and that can even return a sense of touch to the amputee user. In the recent past, we’ve told you about several of these devices, including the iLimb, the SmartHand, and the CYBERHAND. Recently, British company RSLSteeper officially threw its hat (or glove?) into the ring, with the unveiling of its bebionic myo-electric hand.
The bebionic has individual motors for each digit, along with onboard microprocessors that keep track of each finger in order to maintain accurate grip sequences. If a gripped item starts to slip, the processors will detect it, and the Auto Grip function will tighten the grip accordingly. Sensors also detect the position of the thumb, which the user can manually put in an opposed or non-opposed position – opposed is used for more powerful, clenched gripping, while non-opposed is intended for activities like holding cards, pointing or typing. The fingers also have spring returns, so they will naturally move back into position when they brush against other objects.
The wrist, which is currently still being tested, offers 135 degrees of rotation, and 35 degrees of flexion and extension. According to the company, this degree of flexibility greatly reduces the amount of unnatural positioning users would otherwise have to do in order to get the hand lined up for various tasks.
The multi-layered silicone skin looks quite realistic, and is available in 19 different pigments with customized silicone fingernails. The fingertips are reinforced, while the whole thing has a fabric mesh liner for added strength.
Movements are controlled by the bebalance software. Typically, a clinician would assess the needs of an individual user, then set parameters such as their grip speed and range accordingly. In daily use, these stored settings would be activated by signals from the user.
The bebionic should be available as of this month, via RSLSteeper’s website. No word yet on price.